Guest Story: Christy Gore
In my life, “grit” and “grace” are more than just special qualities in a person. Each of them is a person. My maternal grandfather Luther Keeling was known by those closest to him as “Grit,” a nickname he picked up when he delivered the Grit newspaper. It was a fitting nickname, but I knew him as PawPaw. As a child, I never lived near PawPaw, so most of my knowledge and memories of him are from my visits to his house during holidays and vacations or from the stories my cousins, who did live near him, told me. I recently asked my cousins to describe PawPaw in a single word or short phrase. They QUICKLY responded with the following: gentleman, wise, patient, loving, builder, believer, handsome, devoted, respected, faithful servant, fisherman, preacher. I had only experienced PawPaw in short visits, so I loved hearing these things from the cousins who had experienced him in a deeper way. PawPaw was a quiet, tough man who, with my grandmother, raised my mother and her 3 siblings in a very stern but loving household. He endured the Great Depression, served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy in World War II, started his own saw sharpening business, planted and harvested his own home garden, and pastored churches. When I was around him, he moved and talked slowly and deliberately. He smoked a pipe, which seemed so rare and dignified to me, but he was simply my PawPaw, sitting in his chair, listening to us chattering around him. He always had stacks of books around his chair, so I knew he valued reading and learning. When he spoke to you, he would pull you to his side, lean over, and in a quiet, steady tone, he would say what he had been carefully thinking about. His convictions were firm, and his faith unwavering. His quiet way may have made some think he was always serious, but there was always a sparkle in his eye, and you knew you were loved when you were around him. A few years ago, the concept of “grit” became the buzz in the educational world because of a popular TEDTalk. I didn’t learn much more from that than I already knew about grit...because I knew Grit.
Most everything I have learned about grace is embodied in the life of my Aunt Gracie. She is actually my great aunt, sister to my paternal grandmother Retha, whom my sisters and I affectionately called “Mammaw.” Mammaw and Aunt Gracie were two of nine other siblings, but more than that, they were best friends. So Aunt Gracie has been in my life since my earliest memories. Although I have personal stories of my interactions with her, the stories I have been told about her from before I was born better explain the deep level of grace she has demonstrated in her lifetime. Before I came along, Aunt Gracie had already survived giving birth to a very premature baby girl who had to battle for her health and survival. Complications from giving birth led to a year of blindness for Aunt Gracie, and Mammaw and other sisters had to step in and care for baby Janet while Aunt Gracie could not. Janet is Aunt Gracie’s only child and is the primary benefactor of her gracious heart. Aunt Gracie became a widow when Janet was only 12 years old, thus beginning her life as a single mother. She would never remarry, or even date, for that matter, but would remain and still remains one of the most dedicated models of motherhood I have ever known. A lot of people would allow hardships, such as these which Aunt Gracie faced, to make them bitter or depressed. But that is not my experience with her at all. When I asked my sisters how they would describe her in a short phrase or single word, they replied with “contagious laughter and smile” and “amazing.” These are not the words that would hint of a person who has suffered so much. One of the things I remember most about her tiny white house when I was a little girl was that in almost every room and sometimes multiple times in the same room, you would see the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." THAT is grace, and that is Aunt Gracie. She lived this out every day. Her favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” She has shown me that demonstrating grace means that you don’t always have to understand everything that God or anyone else is doing. That a life committed to God is a life that will be directed by Him no matter how bad things might get. She has outlived her brothers and sisters and is now 93 years old. Her health is frail, but she is strong. And every time I’m in her presence, I am graced.
Thank you, Lord, for Grit and Gracie, who have shown me that showing grit is best demonstrated in a quiet, gracious package, and being gracious requires enormous grit and strength. I am blessed to not only know what real grit and grace are, but I am blessed to have known Grit and Gracie.